There’s Amsterdam Idaho, Amsterdam Saskatchewan, Amsterdam Virginia, Amsterdam Georgia... you get the picture. In total, there are 16 towns named Amsterdam in North America. And they have become the subject of Amsterdam Stories USA, “an east-to-west road movie” by Dutch filmmakers Rob Rombout and Rogier van Eck.
Why Amsterdam? For both filmmakers, Amsterdam “connects to their Dutch origins and thus to emotions, images and stories.” And, while many European cities have clones in “the New World”, Amsterdam is the only one that has spread across the continent from East to West – perfect for a road movie.
Clogs and windmills
Mr Rombout says that their film about “unknown America” also shows quite a lot of Dutch heritage. “Not people wearing wooden shoes, but there are always windmills. Sometimes they are the biggest building in the whole village. You can even buy Dutch liquorice 'drop' here in the stores. There is always a Dutch element. They are proud of it.”
But what do the residents of these small towns and villages think about their home’s namesake? Mr Rombout says they are interested.
“Most of them have never been abroad. But I would say they are more interested in Dutch heritage than in Amsterdam heritage. Because Amsterdam unfortunately has this reputation of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll and that’s not really the image they like in the countryside here in America.”
Amsterdam meets Amsterdam
The film is actually the second part in a trilogy of Amsterdam-based feature-length documentaries. The first, Amsterdam via Amsterdam, told the story of a sea expedition between two islands named Amsterdam at the opposite ends of the earth.
The third film, yet to come, will be called Amsterdam Black & White. Mr Rombout describes it as “a double portrait of a small village in South Africa in Transvaal – of course black – and a small village in the North of Holland which is also named Amsterdam which is of course completely white.”
As the slogan goes, I ♥ Amsterdam, all of them.
Listen to a short clip of RNW's Dick Klees speaking to filmmaker Rob Rombout.